Pettit pounces on field for first career Featherlite Southwest Series win. STOCKTON, Calif. (April 27, 2003) Jim Pettit II of Prunedale, Calif. won his first career NASCAR Elite Division, Featherlite Southwest Series Saturday night at...
Pettit pounces on field for first career Featherlite Southwest Series win.
STOCKTON, Calif. (April 27, 2003) Jim Pettit II of Prunedale, Calif. won his first career NASCAR Elite Division, Featherlite Southwest Series Saturday night at Stockton 99 Speedway in his 49th career start. Pettit started tenth and worked his way to the front and by lap 93 he powered his Hall Kinion.Com Ford by Todd Souza and held on to take the victory .231 seconds ahead of Souza. Souza equaled a career best second place finish, with Burney Lamar, Auggie Vidovich Jr., and Eric Holmes rounding out the top five finishers in the Budweiser "125" presented by Havoline.
Thirty-four Featherlite Southwest Series machines rolled through the tech line to qualify. Most were betting that the track locals would take the top spot, but it was third year Featherlite southwest Series driver Mike Ledbetter who grabbed his first career Bud Pole Award with a quick lap of 13.663 seconds, 65.871 mph. Brandon Whitt qualified second after traveling from Fontana, Calif. where he finished 16th in his first NASCAR Winston West start at California Speedway. Burney Lamar, Eric Holmes, and Bryan Germone rounded out the top five qualifiers.
With the top twenty starting spots set after qualifying, 13 cars rolled to the grid for the 20-lap Non-Qualifiers race. Danny Burson was unable to make the show after breaking a motor in practice. Darrell LaMoure led all 20 laps to take the win and transfer to the Budweiser "125" along with second place finisher Greg Potts.
Todd Souza from Aromas, Calif. started on the pole after an invert of six was drawn putting Bud Pole winner Mike Ledbetter outside of row three. Souza paced the field to the green flag in front of more than 3,500 enthusiastic area race fans. With passing at a premium at Stockton, drivers settled in to their race pace waiting for an opening. Eric Holmes got around Bryan Germone on lap five to take over second, dropping Germone back to third, with Burney Lamar in fourth and Mike Ledbetter moving up to fifth.
Victory Circle Chassis Rookie-of-the-Year contender Frank Deiny Jr. lost the handle coming out of turn two on lap 15 and looped his Star Nursery.Com Chevrolet losing a lap to the field. The field stayed green with Souza lengthening his lead by lap 20. Eric Holmes moved into second, with Germone in third, followed by Lamar and Ledbetter. Last year's winner Ron Strmiska Jr. of Manteca, Calif. spun his machine losing a lap in the process on lap 30.
Souza maintained his advantage through lap 50, at times pulling away from the field by five car lengths. Holmes followed in second with Germone, Lamar, and Ledbetter in the top five. Jim Pettit II led the next five followed by Brandon Whitt, Steve Belletto, Auggie Vidovich Jr., and Eric Schmidt. Whitt dropped out of contention after his ignition went away on lap 55 dropping the 2002 ROTY eleven laps down after making repairs to the MOEN Pontiac.
The first caution flag flew on lap 63 Greg Potts. Potts spun in the center of turn one collecting Bud Pole winner Mike Ledbetter. Both cars were able to continue, but Ledbetter suffered front end damage ending his top five run and he would finish in the 17th position two laps down. Souza continued to lead on the lap 72 restart, but caution flew again on lap 74 for Darrell LaMoure as he smacked the turn three backwards. LaMoure lost a lap and finished 14th.
Germone and Deiny tangled in turn one on lap 85 bringing out the caution for the third time. Germone managed to stay on the lead lap in the 14th position. On the lap 93 restart, Souza led Pettit, Lamar, Holmes and Vidovich. Belletto moved into sixth, with David Gilliland, Schmidt, Eddy McKean, and Craig Raudman rounding out the top ten.
Souza's car started to develop a slight push in the center of the corner allowing Pettit to take the inside groove away. Pettit made a pass for the lead on lap 94 as the duo exited out turn four. Souza fell to second. 2001 series champion Craig Raudman had worked his way into the top ten from the rear of the field, but his luck ended on lap 96 when he and Ledbetter touched exiting turn four sending the HPS Chevrolet for a long spin and contact with inside wall. The contact broke the rear trailing arms ending the former champion's night in 22nd place.
The final caution flew when Germone and Deiny found the same piece of real estate in turn four leaving the rookie pinned against the wall. Petit led the field on the lap 114 restart with Souza in tow followed by Lamar, Holmes, Vidovich, Belletto, Gilliland, Schmidt, Dan Holtz, Thomas Martin, McKean, and Doug McCoun all on the lead lap. Pettit was never challenged over the final ten laps and help on to collect his first series victory by .231 seconds over Souza. Lamar held on for third, with current 2003 point leader Vidovich collecting another top-five finish. Holmes rounded out the top five, with Gilliland in sixth, Belletto in seventh, followed by Schmidt, Holtz, and McKean.
A jubilant Pettit celebrated with his crew in victory lane. "It is awesome to win my first series race here at Stockton," Pettit said. "I have been so close so many times only to have something go wrong. I am so proud to be a part of this series and everyone associated with it. This win was truly a team effort led by my crew chief Duane Sharp who has been trying to win a series race since 1986."
Pettit reflected on the struggles he has had to get to this point and recognized that the team still has a few hurdles to get over. "We need to get better at qualifying," Pettit said. "I know we can race well, but we just need to start closer to the front and that will make this a whole lot easier. Stockton is the toughest show of the year and to leave here with the car intact and a move up in the point standings makes everything better."
A disappointed Todd Souza found little solace in finishing second. "I just got beat tonight," Souza said. "My car developed a soft push in the center of the turns and that allowed Jim to take the inside. His car was better on the bottom and that made the difference. My team has really made great strides over the last year. We have learned to adapt to the tracks and we have had great cars at each event, we had the best car tonight but luck did not go our way."
Needing a good finish to boost his spirits, Burney Lamar recorded the best career finish for CBA Motorsports owner Clarence Broussard. "This is the kind of run we are capable of," Lamar said. "We have to be competitive before we can win. The whole team has worked real hard to get to this point and I could not be happier about finishing third."
With Stockton being the cornerstone of the season for many teams, several drivers were happy to leave Stockton with a solid finish. Dan Holtz was one such driver. "I have learned a lot over the last couple of years," Holtz said. "Sometimes you just have to take what the track gives you and this is one of those tracks. I wanted to finish in the top ten knowing that finishing would help us in the points. We are happy to finish ninth and load the car up with only a scratch or two."
Several drivers took a hit in the point standings after less than expected finishes at Stockton. Falling out of the top ten were Craig Raudman and Frank Deiny Jr. Moving into the top ten were Burney Lamar, Steve Belletto, and Todd Souza. Vidovich maintains the top spot in the standings followed by Pettit, Holmes, McKean, and Holtz. The second five is led by Germone, with Lamar, Belletto, Souza, and McCoun rounding out the top ten.
The race took 39 minutes and 31 seconds (new record) to complete the 125 lap distance at an average speed of 48.554 mph. The action was slowed four times for thirty-three laps, and there was only one lead change between two drivers. Todd Souza led the most laps (92) with Pettit leading the final 32 circuits. Mike Ledbetter won the Bud Pole Award and the $325 bonus with a lap of 13.663 seconds/65.871 mph. Jim Pettit II claimed the $750 Powerade Power Move-of-the-Race bonus after starting tenth. Thomas Martin collected Victory Circle Chassis Rookie-of-the-Race honors for his 12th place finish.
Fourteen drivers failed to qualify for the show including Joe Herold, Greg Fowler, Scott Busby, Nathan Thiesse, John Moore, Kevin Clark, Richard Johnson, Jeff Belletto, Stan Silva Jr., Kevin Vernon, Troy Ermish, and Danny Burson.
The drivers and teams of the Featherlite Southwest Series will take six weeks off before returning to action Saturday, June 7 at the wide half-mile paved oval of Irwindale Speedway in Irwindale, Calif.